[FPSPACE] Black Projects commentary by Bill Sweetman at Jane's
pjp961 at svol.net
Tue Apr 11 18:52:29 EDT 2006
The full article is in the April 06 issue of Jane's Defence Weekly
Bill usually writes articles like a primer on things....
US black programmes: funding the void
By Bill Sweetman IDR Technology & Aerospace Editor
Black programmes are a subset of what the US calls special access programmes (SAPs). A programme judged so sensitive that its existence is classified is an 'unacknowledged SAP'. Within this group are waived SAPs which are not briefed to Congress. In this case, only eight individuals - the chair and ranking minority member of each of the four defence committees - are notified of the decision. These waived SAPs are the blackest of black programmes.
Some analysts believe that much of the black budget funds the operations of intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and many new small units that have sprung up in the aftermath of 9/11. Some of the identifiable items within the classified world are strongly linked to particular intelligence activities. The long-standing anomaly in US Air Force (USAF) missile-procurement accounts funds intelligence-gathering spacecraft; it shrank considerably from FY06 to FY07, reflecting the restructuring of the troubled Future Imagery Architecture project for a new generation of radar and electro-optical spy satellites.
Where did the work lead?
Military space systems have been funded in the black world since the 1960s and still are likely to account for a large proportion of black-world funds, but whether they include a massive two-stage-to-orbit re-usable space reconnaissance-strike system remains to be seen. Such a system might be technically feasible, but even in small numbers it would be hard to conceal and it would be unlikely that it would be permitted to operate over metropolitan or suburban areas at low altitudes in daylight, as reports suggested.
The hypothesis, however, that a high-speed system of some kind was developed in the 1980s is still supported by evidence, although much of it is circumstantial. Unusual sonic booms over southern California in the early 1990s, and over other places since, remain unexplained. A leading sonic boom expert who has reviewed the California boom tracks believes that they were produced by vehicles following a Shuttle-type landing profile.
Both the booms and the best eyewitness account of what may have been a secret aircraft over the North Sea in 1989 are consistent with reasonable security measures. The booms were recorded in detail by a seismograph network that the USAF had no way of knowing was being used for that purpose and the sighting was far out over open water, where the risk of a chance encounter with a trained observer was minimal.
No direct evidence of such a project has emerged since the early 1990s, which means one of three things; it was cancelled soon after it was reported; or it has continued to operate on a spacecraft-like schedule, making very few sorties in response to high-priority national requirements.
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